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Stop and search being used as a “blunt tool” says IOPC

The IOPC lead on discrimination, Sal Naseem, has said that stop and search practice needs to be refined in order that the tactic is as effective as it can be.

The IOPC has today issued 18 recommendations on stop and search practice to try and ensure people from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds are not disproportionally affected by the tactic. 

Speaking to Police Oracle, Sal Naseem said: “Stop and search is an entirely legitimate tool for policing to use as part of the policing toolkit. What we're questioning is how it's used. What we are seeing is it's not being used with the necessary care and precision, it's being used as quite a blunt tool.” 

The use of stop and search under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act increased by 24 per cent to 695,009 in the year ending March 2021. Figures also show that 77 per cent of these were recorded with ‘no further action.’ 

The Met carries out the most stop and searches, while Merseyside, West Midlands, Essex and West Yorkshire follow. 

Cressida Dick has previously defended the Met’s use of stop and search, explaining that a high number of black male victims of knife crime could explain the disproportionality in those who are stopped. 

IOPC lead on discrimination Sal Naseem said: “There are really well-known figures around the disproportionality which exists. But there is not one police force across the UK that can explain why that is. There's a lot of conjecture [...] but no cohesive explanation. 

“[The disproportionality will remain unexplained] until policing as a whole, not just the Met, can legitimately explain and understand, then unpack and solve why that disproportionality is there- otherwise it will undermine the legitimacy of stop and search as a policing tactic.” 

He said forces need to be able to explain those decisions externally so that communities can understand. 

On the same day that the IOPC stop and search report was published Acting Met Commissioner Sir Stephen House told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “Black communities are victimised far more by violent crime compared to White communities.

“It has to be said policing – and the Metropolitan Police – is not the only institution where the Black community feels less confident.”

He revealed 29 per cent of the 20,000 searches carried out by officers each month in London lead to a result. Officers are recovering 400 weapons each month, mainly knives, through stop and search.

Sir Stephen went further, telling MPs: “If someone - and this is genuine - can tell me how we can recover 400 weapons from the streets of London every month in a way that isn’t intrusive, we would love to look at it and embrace it.”

The report, published today, is based on a review of 37 IOPC investigations, appeals and reviews between 2018 and 2021. 

The report cites a number of case examples including a 12-year-old Black child who had a plaster cast on one of his hands but was placed in handcuffs within 20 seconds of the officer exiting his vehicle. 

Sal Naseem said the issues they have come across include routine handcuffing, lack of de-escalation techniques and problems around use of body-worn footage. 

The recommendations include implementing training on communication skills and use of de-escalation, reviewing reasonable grounds for suspicion of cannabis possession, and developing guidelines on safeguarding people from minority ethnic backgrounds as well as commissioning research into trauma caused by stop and search. 

Some of the recommendations reflect on guidelines that are already in place ensuring they are implemented. 

Sal Naseem said: “The Standards of Professional behaviour are really clear. But they're just words in a document. How do you bring that to life? And that is a challenge for for policing. That's a challenge around culture.” 

When asked whether these recommendations may also turn into just words in a document, he said “policing at the minute cannot afford to not look at what we are seeing and embrace the opportunity for change.” 

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